“After two years of working on projects for this region, it is really up to the voters to decide – are we going to get in the economic development business as far as improving our infrastructure to put us in a competitive state with other communities to have a major artery to I-75? This is it. This is our opportunity. Does this community want to receive discretionary funding for 10 years that financially, Upson County couldn’t do itself? Do we want to seize that opportunity?”
Those are the questions Upson County Commission Chairman Maurice Raines wants the voters of Upson County to ask themselves in connection with the upcoming T-SPLOST vote. Raines voiced those queries at a T-SPLOST Forum sponsored by the Thomaston-Upson Chamber of Commerce and held at the GDOT District 3 office in Thomaston Tuesday morning. More than 25 people attended the meeting.
House Bill 277, the Transportation Investment Act, more commonly known as the T-SPLOST, will be voted on during the July 31 Primary. The T-SPLOST is a 10 year, 1 percent regional sales tax that will be used to fund transportation projects in the various regions.
Raines and Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold both served on the regional roundtable that determined the list of projects for the 10-county Three Rivers region, which is made up of Upson, Lamar, Butts, Spalding, Pike, Troup, Meriwether, Coweta, Carroll and Heard. The Three Rivers region is expected to generate $984 million in T-SPLOST funds over the 10-year period, which will be divided among the counties in the region.
The widening of Highway 36 from I-75 to Thomaston was selected as the priority project for Upson County. The estimated cost of the project is $84 million. GDOT has agreed to put $30 million in federal dollars towards the project. Upson County’s portion will be $32.5 million, with the remaining funds coming from Lamar County, which will also benefit from the project, and Heard and Pike counties.
In addition to the funding for the widening of Highway 36, Upson County and its municipalities are expected to receive $14.2 million over the 10-year period in discretionary funds, which can be used to fund road department operations and local projects. Raines noted that the county’s portion, which will average out to about $1.3 million a year, would fund the county road department by itself, and is more money than the county could hope to raise by itself.
Raines said he and Mayor Arnold have worked on the Three Rivers roundtable for the past two years to get the T-SPLOST ready for voters, and said Upson County residents need to ask themselves three questions:
1. Is Highway 36 important for us to be able to get to I-75 with a four-lane highway?
2. Could Upson County use discretionary funding to fund road improvements for the next 10 years that right now we couldn’t do ourselves?
3. Are we concerned about economic development, knowing that transportation improvement is needed for us to be competitive, not only in this region, but across the state?
“Those are the three things we need to think about as a community,” Raines said. “This is your opportunity to decide whether those three things are important to us.”